The signs of impending labor include the loss of the mucus plug, the baby dropping further into the pelvis and rupture of the membranes, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Thinning and dilation of the cervix are also signs that labor is near. Some women also experience a bout of energy near their due dates and feel an urge to prepare the home for the arrival of the baby; this behavior is referred to as "nesting."
Some signs of labor can be seen by the expecting mother without the help of a doctor's exam, including "lightening," which occurs when the baby drops into the pelvis. The expecting mother will feel relief from the pressure of the baby on the diaphragm and may feel like she can breathe better. At the same time, she may also feel increased pressure on the bladder and need to urinate more frequently. She may pass a bloody plug of mucus; this is referred to as the "bloody show." This is a plug of stringy mucus that may be clear or tinged with blood that may be noticed on tissue paper or in the toilet before labor commences. When a woman's "water" breaks, which is the rupture of membranes, labor is looming near. This fluid comes from the amniotic sac surrounding the baby, states the American Pregnancy Association.
As a woman gets closer towards impending labor, her contractions begin to become more frequent and intense. They become sudden, sharp pains. Eventually, these contractions, also referred to as Braxton Hicks contractions, start to grow so long and common that they become one full contraction a signal that child birth is occurring.
Effacement of the cervix and dilation of the cervix are both signs the doctor looks for to see if a woman is in labor. When the cervix dilates to 10 centimeters, the baby is ready to be born.